The 1989 Giants were a team in transition. They were coming off the 1988 season, in which they lost a heart wrenching game to the Eagles at home in OT, when LT blocked a field goal and Clyde Simmons ran it in for a TD which put the Giants at 7-5, and gave Philly a season sweep. The Giants would right themselves after this, winning their next 3 games to go into the final week of the regular season at 10-5 and a 1 game lead on Philly, to play the NY Jets, who were playing out the season. The Giants would fall behind 13-0 and 20-7, until they roared back to take a 21-20 lead, only to lose on an Al Toon TD towards the end of regulation. An Eagles win over Dallas in Tom Landry's final game gave the Birds the NFC East crown, and a Niners' loss on Sunday Night to the Rams cost the Giants a playoff spot despite a 10-6 record.
The core of the mid 1980s team was getting old. The Giants lost several key members of the team, particularly on defense, to retirement. Harry Carson and George Martin retired. Jim Burt failed his physical due to back problems and retired (only to later un-retire and play 2 more seasons in San Francisco). Long time safety Kenny Hill signed with the Chiefs. There were open questions on who would assume the leadership mantle with those guys now gone. On the offensive line, the Giants would only have 1 starter return from their Suburbanites group, center Bart Oates. The Giants decided to shift William Roberts to one guard spot and start Jumbo Elliott at left tackle.
On special teams, the Giants decided to move on from steady Phil McConkey, and drafted a small but powerful and speedy Dave Meggett from Towson State to take over from him as a return man. Meggett started off very slowly, dropping 3 punts in the pre-season opener in Kansas City, but Parcells' stuck with his rookie.
And the last change didn't bring youth, but rather age. Joe Morris broke his foot in the pre-season finale vs. the Browns and was placed on IR and lost for the season. The Giants decided to get former Cardinal OJ Anderson re-established as the main RB, at the tender age of 31. Anderson was an insurance policy after he was acquired in 1986, and didn't play much in 1987. In 1988, Anderson was used as a short yardage and goal line back, scoring 8 TDs in 65 attempts and was perfect in converting 3rd and shorts.
The Giants would start the season in Washington, where the Redskins figured to rebound from a disappointing 1988 season in their own right, going 7-9 in their title defense. But the Skins loaded up again for 1989. They traded for 2 veteran backs, and former Pro Bowlers, in Gerald Riggs from Atlanta and Ernest Byner from the Browns. They had "The Posse" still in their respective primes (Gary Clark, Art Monk, and Rickey Sanders). And they gave the ball to a strong armed young QB in Mark Rypien, who was starting for Doug Williams, after Williams had hurt himself getting in shape on the treadmill and was recovering from knee surgery.
The Giants came into RFK for the 1989 Monday Night season opener, as a 4 point underdog and more questions than answers after 2 straight seasons of missing the playoffs. Most NFL experts figured they'd be the 3rd team in the 3 way fight between the Redskins, Eagles, and Giants for the NFC East.
The Game Highlights
ABC Sports was in a festive mood for this opener in the Nation's Capital. It was the start of the 20th Season of Monday Night Football and they had two old rivals fighting it out to begin the 1989 season. It was a hot night in Washington, DC, the temperature a muggy 88 degrees at kickoff meant that players would not only be battling each other but the heat as well.
The Giants would get the ball first, and Chip Lohmiller kicked off to Meggett, who returned the ball out to the 20. The Phil Simms led Giants offense trotted out on to the field, with OJ Anderson starting the game. The first play of the season wasn't exactly what the Giants had in mind, as the loud RFK crowd got young RT Doug Reisenberg to jump early for a false start. On 1st and 15, OJ started with an impressive 10 yard burst up the middle to the 25. A second down run by OJ went only for a yard, and the drive would officially come to an end as Simms was sacked by Redskins LB Monte Coleman, who blew by guard Damien Johnson coming out late on protection. On came Sean Landeta, to field a high snap and punted it back to the Skins, who returned it to the Giants 30 yard line.
The new look Giants defense came on to the field. Erik Howard was replacing Jim Burt as the starting NT. Harry Carson was now retired from the ILB position. And because of injuries to Gary Reasons and the training camp holdout of Pepper Johnson, the starting ILB spots went to Johnie Cooks and former Cowboy Steve DeOssie. Meanwhile, the Redskins gave the ball to Mark Rypien for his first opening day start in Washington. The Skins started by showing off one of their veteran backs, handing the ball off to Gerald Riggs, who cost them a first round pick going back to Atlanta. Riggs powered ahead for 8 yards before Banks and rookie Greg Jackson finally brought him down. A follow up run by Riggs made it 3rd and short, where Riggs was able to plow ahead over Cooks for a first down to the 47. The Skins took the air on first down, with Rypien overthrowing long time Giant killer Gary Clark, who was covered well by Sheldon White. On second down, Riggs ran it to the Giants 49 to set up a 3rd and 6. The Skins brought in their other big name RB, Ernest Byner on third down, but LT decided to get involved.
Rypien went back to pass, but LT swooped around and knocked the ball loose, which was recovered by Washington, but stalled the drive and forced a Redskins punt, which was returned by Meggett to the 19 yard line.
The Giants started their drive by handing off to Mo Carthon who went for 5 yards out to the 24. OJ then followed up with a strong run off left tackle for 6 more yards and a first down, thanks mainly to a seal block by Mark Bavaro one-on-one vs. Dexter Manley. Carthon ran it for 8 more yards up the middle, but Wilbur Marshall finally stuffed OJ for no gain on 2nd down. On 3rd and 2, OJ ran behind Oates for 4 yards and another first down. After a short gain by OJ, the Giants decided to go to the air
Probably should have just kept it on the ground. Simms threw the ball into coverage trying to hit Lionel Manuel, and Alvin Walton picked the ball off and ran it back to the Giants 36 yard line. Simms, his typically scrappy self, got into a fight with Wilbur Marshall on the play and actually ripped Marshall's helmet off.
But the Skins had momentum and the ball well in Giants territory. On first down Riggs ran it to the 27 where he was finally stopped by Greg Jackson. On 2nd and 2, LT again made his presence known out in RFK
LT initially had Riggs run by him, but LT would chase him down and as Riggs was going to the ground, LT used his patented chop move to knock the ball out and it was recovered by Mark Collins who took the ball back to the 28 yard line. It was LT's 2nd forced fumble and the season was not even 1 quarter old.
The Giants started with a 6 yard pass to Lee Rouson out of the backfield and Rouson would carry on the next play out to the 40 yard line for a first down. A Carthon run would net just 2 yards, and a Simms dump off pass to OJ would get 3 more, as OJ would drag 3 Redskins along to the 46 yard line. On 3rd and 4, Simms would hit Odessa Turner on a crossing pattern, beating Walton in coverage and Turner would race down the sidelines to the Skins 30 yard line and a first down. After Dexter dropped OJ for a 1 yard loss, the Giants would look to pass on 2nd and 11.
Odessa Turner was a WR who the Giants, and the Giants fans had high hopes for. He was big, fast, great talent, but never stayed healthy. However, he'd show up big in the Redskins games. This time he took a Simms pass, which seemed ticketed for an interception by Pro Bowler Darrell Green, but the more powerful Turner ripped the ball away from Green and scored on a 31 yard TD pass to make the game 7-0.
Raul Allegre's ensuing kickoff was returned by AJ Johnson out to the 24. Rypien would hit Clark out to the 40 yard line and a first down to end the first quarter. A dump off pass to Riggs to start the 2nd quarter was taken to the Giants 46 and another Skins first down. Riggs was stopped for a short gain on first down and then Rypien hit Rickey Sanders to at the 41. On 3rd and 5, a Mark May false start cost Washington 5 yards, and the Skins were unable to convert, as a pass to Sanders made it only to the 40 and forced yet another punt, which was fair caught by Meggett at the 8 yard line.
The drive started with another Carthon run, for just 2 yards out to the 10. On 2nd down, Simms floated a pass out to Bavaro who came back to catch it at the 22 and a first down. On first down, there was no gain on a run by OJ, however on 2nd down, OJ would rumble for 16 yards out to the 38. A short run by Carthon and an out of bounds catch on a deep ball by Turner, who beat Brian Davis, set up 3rd and long, and also the coming out party for a new star in NY
For many years the Giants third down package was not all that inspiring. In the mid 1980s, the Giants used Tony Galbreath as the 3rd down back. But when Meggett was drafted, it seemed as a return man, we didn't know that we'd see a guy who, along with Eric Metcalf (a fellow rookie in Cleveland), would transform that 3rd down role. Putting a quick/fast back in 3rd down, where he'd be an instant mismatch on a linebacker or safety forced to cover him, Meggett would become a huge weapon for the Giants over the course of his career. In this case, Meggett made the catch at the 45, bounced off a hit by Walton and then went into a dead sprint up the middle of the field, outrunning the Skins secondary (including a late horse collar tackle on Davis, which was not a penalty in 1989) for a 68 yard TD and a shocking 14-0 lead by the G-Men.
RFK was in a state of shock and the Skins needed to get moving. Johnson returned the kickoff to the 35 yard line, but a block in the back by the Skins on Reyna Thompson moved the ball back to the 5 yard line. Rypien began with a dump off to Riggs, as he just avoided a sack by Eric Dorsey, and Riggs ran it out to near the 15 yard line. On 2nd down, DeOssie came in and hit Riggs for a loss. The Skins would convert on 3rd and 2, hitting Sanders over the middle and raced out to the 43 yard line. The Skins kept momentum going, hitting Don Warren who would plow ahead to the 34, bowling over Terry Kinard along the way. Rypien attempted a long pass to Clark, but was broken up by Perry Williams. A second down pass to Clark got it to the 31. On 3rd and 7, Rypien was pressured by LT and threw it away, which brought on Lohmiller for a 49 yard FG attempt, which he promptly hooked to the left and the Giants kept their 2 TD lead.
Starting from the 31, the Giants started with a 3 yard loss by Carthon, who was nailed by Charles Mann. An offsides by Dexter helped the Giants on the next play, but on 2nd and 8, Simms was sacked by Daryl Grant on a pass rush up the gut. A 3rd and long pass to Turner sailed out of bounds and Landeta punted the ball to the Skins 36 with 3:56 to go in the half.
Rypien began with a pass to Warren out to the 43 where he was finally stopped by Banks. Riggs followed up with a run to midfield and Rypien hit Clark at the 33 and then followed up with another pass to Clark down to the 17 at the 2 minute warning. Riggs took a draw play to the 11 yard line and then a pass to Art Monk got the ball to the 7 yard line and out of bounds to stop the clock and another first down. On first down, LT pressured Rypien and forced an incompletion. On second down, Byner dropped a would be TD at the goal line. On third down, Banks broke up a pass to Monk and forced a 24 yard Lohmiller FG, which was good and cut the lead to 14-3.
Lohmiller's kick went for a touchback and with 1:28 to go and 3 time outs, it seemed as though Parcells would just sit on the lead and go into the locker room. On first down, Carthon took a handoff and ran a plunge into the middle for 1 yard. When it seemed like the Giants were just running out the clock, they tried to catch Washington napping and Simms threw a deep pass to Turner, but it was incomplete. On 3rd and 9, the Giants again handed off to Carthon to the 26, but not enough for a first and the Skins called a timeout with :35 to go. Landeta's punt was boomed to the 20, and Joe Howard ran it back to the 36 with :24 to go.
It looked like the Giants had screwed up and would get burned here, giving the Skins a chance to get in for a late FG shot. However...
Rypien, a young QB, fell into the Giants' trap, and threw into coverage deep over the middle, where Sheldon White made the INT in front of Sanders and ran it back to the Skins 33. On the play, a clearly gassed LT, affected by the heat, would head right to the locker room for an IV. On first down, the Giants handed off to Meggett out of the shotgun who ran it to the 25 and brought on Allegre for a big FG attempt with :06 to go in the half. However, Raul shanked a 42 yard attempt and the Skins averted disaster. With :01 to go in the half, the Skins tried a Hail Mary, which was actually caught by Sanders for a 45 yard gain out to the 30, but that did little other than pad some stats and the Giants went into halftime up 14-3.
The 2nd half started with the Skins returning the ball to the 24 yard line. Riggs began with a big run up the middle to the 41 where he was stopped by Kinard. On his next carry, Riggs was hit for a short gain by DeOssie and Leonard Marshall. On second down, yet another run by Riggs for a 5 yard gain, stopped by Plan B free agent acquisition Greg Cox. On 3rd and 5, a Giants blitz forced a quick throw by Rypien, who nearly had the ball picked by Sheldon White for a second time and forced a punt. But on the punt, we saw the downside to Meggett
Now, as mentioned earlier, Meggett had a bit of the yips in the pre-season in regards to ball control. However, in this case, Meggett was returning the ball up the field and was drilled by Kurt Gouvea, who forced a fumble which was recovered by Skins punter Ralf Mojseijenko at the Giants 36 yard line.
A first down run by Riggs went for 2 yards to the 34 and he followed that up with a run to the 28, after bouncing off a hit from DeOssie. On 3rd and 3, Rypien hit Sanders for a first down, however a Skins penalty called it back. The next down, an Eric Dorsey sack was negated by an LT offsides. So, back to 3rd and 3 again, Rypien hit Monk down to the 10 yard line and a first down. With their backs to the goal line, the Giants defense would make another play
I've seen a lot of fumbles over the years. Riggs was trying to plow ahead for more yards, he was getting hit by LT and as DeOssie came around he jarred the ball loose, which was recovered by Greg Jackson at the 7. I have never seen a ball spin on it's point like that on a fumble, and on natural grass mind you. We've seen it tons of times that players will do that when they score a TD. It's part of Victor Cruz's repertoire to spin the ball just prior to his salsa dance and little palms out hand signal thing. But on a fumble? I cant' recall seeing that before or since.
Anyway, that big turnover kept the score at 14-3 and no harm/no foul on Meggett. First down, OJ was stuffed by Mann for no gain. On second down, OJ found a seam up the middle and ran it to the 20 for a first down. The next play OJ took it around right end for another 5 yards, but was stuffed by Dexter for no gain on the play after. On 3rd and 4, Dexter took a hard inside move, which allowed Simms a lane on the outside to run for a first down to the 35. After that play though, 2 short OJ runs and an incomplete pass to Stephen Baker ended the drive and brought on Landeta, who boomed the ball down to the 4 yard line, where return man Joe Howard actually had the ball go between his legs and avoid a back breaking turnover.
The Skins began with an incomplete pass deep to Clark. On 2nd down, Riggs got it out to the 7 where he was stopped by LT and John Washington. A huge 3rd and 7 play was converted by Clark, who made the catch and headed up field for a 28 yard gain out to the 35. After a reverse to Monk was snuffed out by LT for 1 yard, Monk made a catch to the 44 for an 8 yard gain. Riggs would power ahead to the 48 and another first down. After a 1 yard gain, the Skins finally were able to connect on a deep pass
The Skins OL finally held up the Giants and Rypien uncorked a perfect bomb to Sanders, who got behind Collins and Kinard after a play action fake and hauled in a 49 yard TD late in the 3rd quarter to make the score 14-10.
RFK was rocking and Meggett returned the kickoff to the 27. Simms began the drive getting sacked by Dexter at the 23. The Giants then decided to be aggressive and go to their TEs. Successive catches by Zeke Mowatt to the Skins 46 and then to Bavaro got the ball to the 25. The Giants would again turn to their running game. OJ ran it up the gut for 6 yards to end the 3rd quarter. Rouson would start the 4th with a 2 yard gain to the 17 yard line and OJ would make it to the 14 and another first. But OJ wasn't done
OJ showed some quickness, rumbling up the middle for a 14 yard TD to quiet the crowd, cap a 73 yard drive, and put the Giants back up by 11 points, making the score 21-10.
The Skins would not back down though. AJ Johnson returned the kickoff to the 34. Rypien hit TE Jimmy Johnson to the 47. A Riggs 10 yard burst got the ball to the Giants 43. Clark followed that up with a catch and run to the 22 yard line. After a 5 yard Riggs run, Sanders hauled in a pass to the 7 yard line and a first and goal. Riggs was stuffed on first down by LT. Byner would then make a 1 yard catch, and was dropped immediately by Collins. The Skins would cash in on 3rd and goal
Art Monk made the catch over the middle for at TD as Rypien drilled it to him and Monk avoided Banks to make the score 21-17.
Lohmiller's kickoff was returned by Meggett to the 31, but an illegal block by Rouson set them back to the 21. After a 1 yard gain by OJ, with RFK Stadium on its feet, the Giants would make a costly error
Simms tried to hit Bavaro, who held up his route, and Coleman continued on in coverage and made a nice 1 handed INT, and turned up field and ran it in for a 24 yard TD. Now up 24-21, with 2 TDs within moments of each other, RFK was officially up for grabs.
Meggett would return the next kickoff to the 32. A Simms scramble to the 44 got the Giants going (his fumble on the play was ruled to be caused by the ground). On the next play, Simms again was scrambling around, but stopped and threw an incompletion. However, William Roberts, thinking Simms was going to run, headed downfield for a penalty to make it 1st and 20. With 6:30 to go in the game, Simms went deep to Turner, who held up and out jumped 2 Skins for a 44 yard gain to the Skins 22 yard line, as he stole the ball away from Todd Bowles. Three straight OJ runs got the ball down to the 10 yard line. After a 2 yard gain by OJ to the 8, Simms missed Mowatt for an incomplete pass. On 3rd and 8, Simms was sacked by Mann, more or less a coverage sack, and Allegre calmly drilled a 32 yarder to tie the game at 24-24 with 2:17 to play.
Each team had 3 time outs and the Skins took the kickoff to the 28 yard line, looking for a FG to win the game. Riggs ran it for 6 yards to bring the game to the 2 minute warning. Riggs would run it again for 2 yards and set up a 3rd and 2. Instead of playing it for the first down, Rypien decided to go deep to Art Monk, and missed him even though he was open at the 11 yard line. That left 1:06 on the clock and Washington had to punt. After a penalty on Washington forced them to re-kick, Meggett ran the punt back to the 29 yard line with :44 to go in the game.
Out of the gun, Simms hit Bavaro over the middle to the 44 yard line. Meggett then took an inside handoff from the gun and ran it to the Skins 44 with :22 seconds to go and the Giants called their first time out. A low snap threw off Simms timing on a pass to Ingram and fell incomplete. It was now 3rd and 2, with :17 to go in the game, Simms threw a pass to Bavaro, who was interfered with by Clarence Vaughn at the 41 for a first down with :14 to go. The Giants would call a time out to collect themselves and Simms would hit Ingram down at the 35 with :06 remaining and they would call their final time out. The Giants decided to bring on Allegre to attempt a 52 yarder and avoid overtime.
Allegre, a career 9-20 from 50+ yards boomed the FG right down the middle, where it cleared the cross bar by about a yard. The long kick actually took up all 6 seconds so the gun sounded with a huge Giants 27-24 win in the opener, and would help springboard them to an 8-1 start and a 1989 NFC East Title.
Interesting Tidbits/Post Mortem
- Allegre's 52 yarder to win the game was one of several memorable game winning FGs that he hit as a member of the Giants. Many fans remember his back to back late game winning FGs in 1986 (@ Minnesota and home vs. the Broncos). However, Allegre, who joined the Giants in 1986 and was on the roster through 1991, only kicked one game winning FG in OT (1987 in a 23-20 win vs. the Eagles).
- The only OT win the Giants had between 1986 and 1991 (Allegre's tenure) other than the 1987 one, was a 33 yard FG made by Paul McFadden, the barefooted kicker, in a 13-10 win at Detroit in 1988.
- To that end, one of the most clutch kickers in Giants history who would replace Allegre, Matt Bahr, never kicked an OT game winning FG for the Giants.
- Back to Allegre OT game winners, he only had 3 throughout his career. In his 1983 rookie season as a member of the Baltimore Colts, in a 22-19 win over the Bears. And in 1991, in his final season, he joined the Jets in the final week and hit a 30 yarder in Miami in Week 16 in OT (a game more well known for then Jets Defensive Coordinator Pete Carroll mocking Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich by making a choking motion after he missed a field goal). The win put the Jets into the playoffs as an 8-8 Wild Card and put them in the postseason for the first time since 1986. Allegre would kick for them in that playoff game at Houston, and hit a 33 yarder in his final NFL game in the 17-10 Jets loss.
- Allegre's FG to end regulation prevented the game from going to OT. The last time the Giants faced the Skins in OT was in 1981, when Washington beat the Giants 30-27 at Giants Stadium. The next time the Giants would face the Skins in OT? The 1997 game which ended in a 7-7 tie and was marked by Gus Frerotte knocking himself out with a headbutt in the end zone.
- Allegre only made 3 kicks for the Giants over 50 yards. The other two were both in the same game against the Eagles in 1987 as he hit 53 and 52 yarders in a 20-17 win at Philly.
- Meggett's 62 yard catch and run for a TD was the longest of his career. The next closest was a 50 yard TD in a 7-3 win at Philly in 1993.
- A few OJ Anderson tidbits. His 93 yards rushing was the most for him since 1985, when he ran for 104 yards in a 43-28 win as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Green Bay
- OJ's 23 carries were his most in a game since 1984, when he had 23 carries in a 31-21 win vs. the Giants.
- OJ's 14 yard TD run was his longest since a 39 yard TD run for the Cardinals in a 38-14 loss at Kansas City...in Week 5 of 1983!
- OJ was the epitome of the TD vulture for the Giants prior to 1989. He scored 10 TDs (including the Super Bowl) for the Giants from 1986-1988. 9 were from 1 yard, and his longest was from 2 yards in a win vs. the Chiefs in 1988.
- Meanwhile, in 1989 - 1990, OJ scored 25 TDs for the Giants, 10 of those were from longer than 2 yards out, with the longest going from 36 yards in 1989 vs. the Cardinals. So while he did score from further out than in the past, he still was a prolific goal line RB.
- Odessa Turner's 31 yard TD was his longest of 1989. His career long TD was a 38 yard TD, also vs. the Redskins, in 1988.
- Turner's 99 yards receiving was his season high in 1989. It was the second highest of his career, behind a 103 yard effort, also at RFK in 1988.
- Turner would catch 8 TDs over the course of his career (7 years with the Giants and Niners). 3 of those TDs would come vs. the Redskins.
- Turner's 44 yard catch was also his longest of the 1989 season.
- Leonard Marshall played the game with a dark visor, which was the only time I can recall him wearing one on the field. He would be the third Giants player on defense that night to wear a dark visor (along with Johnie Cooks and Steve DeOssie). Dark visors were prevalent in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Some players wore them if they had suffered an eye injury/poked in the eye. Some players wore them because of a sensitivity to light (Jim McMahon probably one of the most famous ones...and DeOssie did too). Others wore them because they thought it gave them a competitive advantage, ie- not being able to read their eyes. Vencie Glenn, the former Viking and Giant safety would do that to help him in coverage and keep the QB guessing and see if he could trick him into a pick. The NFL cracked down the dark visor later in the 1990s due to the fact that it got in the way of the team doctors/trainers to look at an injured player on the field to check their eyes, particularly in the case of a concussion and only allowed it for players who had a medical reason.
- Mark Rypien was the Skins 4th QB to start an opener for the Skins in 5 years. 1985- Joe Theismann. 1986/1987- Jay Schroeder. 1988- Doug Williams. 1989- Rypien. Rypien would hold down the Opening Day nod through 1993 until his streak was broken by John Freisz in 1994.
- Art Monk's TD was his first vs. the Giants in 17 games played against them. Monk would actually score again in the Skins rematch at the Meadowlands, as he scored on a 5 yard pass in a 20-17 loss. Otherwise, the only other time he scored vs the Giants was a 28-10 win on the road vs. the rudderless Ray Handley 1992 team.
- Monte Coleman's TD return was his first since 1984, when he returned a pick 49 yards for a TD vs. Dallas
- Gerald Riggs had 397 carries and 33 catches in 1985 as a member of the Falcons with no fumbles. He fumbled twice vs. the Giants in his first game with Washington.
- Ralf Mojsiejenko's fumble recovery on the Meggett hit was the only one in his 7 year career.
- The Skins were 12-3 at home on Monday Nights going into this game.